Even as the popularity of electric vehicles continues to grow, one question remains: How long do the batteries in electric cars last?
Potential owners and those who drive electric cars wonder about the lifespan of EV batteries. The reason: The power source for an electric car is an expensive component to replace. As the industry builds more vehicles with battery packs, lifetime management of a battery is an important hurdle. For now, conservative estimates for battery longevity in new electric vehicles stand at about 100,000 miles.
Proper care can help extend the life of batteries. We know of many examples of EVs with hundreds of thousands of miles using the original battery. Read on to learn more about electric car batteries and their life expectancy.
EV battery basics
Lithium-ion batteries power pure electric cars. This type of rechargeable battery cell is well-suited for electric vehicles due to a higher energy density than lead-acid or nickel-cadmium batteries. A higher energy density means the power source takes up less space.
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Your cellphone and other portable electronics use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. But an electric car battery isn’t just one big battery. Several modules make up an EV battery pack, and each of those modules may contain hundreds of individual cells.
An electric car battery’s capacity gets measured in kilowatt-hours, or kWh. In general, a higher kilowatt-hour rating for an electric car indicates that it can travel farther, like a gas-powered car with a larger gas tank.
Electric car battery charging cycles
Electric car batteries connect to the vehicle’s motor, which turns the wheels. When you accelerate, power gets delivered to the motor, and the energy stored in the battery gets consumed.
EV batteries charge when they’re plugged in and discharge when in use. Repeating this cycle of charging and discharging degrades the battery over time. It decreases the amount of charge the battery can hold. It increases the amount of time needed to recharge the battery.
Most important, the charging cycles take a toll on the lifespan of an electric car battery.
Other factors can impact how long electric car batteries last. Heat and lithium-ion batteries are not a good combination, which is why most EVs have liquid-cooled battery packs. Even so, electric cars in hotter regions will degrade faster.
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While they offer the convenience of speed, regularly using Level 3 fast-charging stations can shorten the expected battery life in electric vehicles. These high-voltage DC stations can charge an EV’s battery up to 80% in about 30 minutes. Still, the process can generate heat in the battery and therefore affect its long-term performance.
EV battery life expectancy and warranties
In a survey of consumers, Cox Automotive (the parent company to Autotrader) found that potential EV buyers have reservations over battery life and the costs associated with battery replacement. Of those considering an electric car purchase, 50% view the average battery life at 100,000 miles or more, and 46% believe average battery life lasts 65,000 miles or less.
To provide some assurance over car battery lifespan and concern with replacement cost, the federal government mandates that manufacturers offer a minimum of an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on batteries. Some manufacturers offer even more protection, such as the lifetime battery warranty on the Hyundai HYMTF, +2.16% Kona EV.
Also see: BMW introduces two new electric cars—and they’re very different
To protect your EV purchase, carefully read warranty details. Some automakers will only cover the battery pack in cases of total failure. Others will offer a replacement battery pack if the unit falls to a certain percentage of its original capacity.
How to preserve battery longevity
There are things EV owners can do to help prevent diminished battery capacity in their cars.
Regularly depleting all or most of a battery’s charge will reduce its capacity more quickly over time. Onboard battery management systems prevent an electric car’s power source from becoming discharged completely to keep it working efficiently. However, some experts say it is best to avoid letting the charge routinely drop below 45%.
On the other side of the gauge, owners can help keep EV batteries healthy by not consistently charging to 100% capacity.
Electric car batteries have improved considerably in recent years. Advancements in battery technology and manufacturing will continue. These improvements may help ease the battery anxiety felt by some buyers of new EVs.
Meanwhile, those in the market for a used electric car should be mindful of battery life expectancy and pay attention to the terms of any remaining warranty coverage for the battery pack.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.